Friday, April 24, 2015

From Dandelions to Tires: Continental Tire Announces New Rubber Source

Photo: © Monika 3 Steps Ahead/, Continental AG
In an appropriately Earth Day themed release, tire manufacturer Continental showed off tires sourced from dandelions at the SAE World Congress in Detroit earlier this week. They’ve been looking for a more sustainable, environmentally friendly raw material for rubber and found it in dandelion roots. Remembering back to my childhood and how the sticky sap used to get all over my hands when I picked a bouquet of the yellow flowers, it makes perfect sense.

According to Dr. Peter Zmolek, Continental Tire the Americas Director of Research and Development, “Continental's use of dandelion roots to make rubber brings us one step closer to reaching our goal of making tire production more sustainable and less dependent on traditional raw materials.” The project has been carried out at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology at the University of Munster, Germany. The resulting dandelion rubber has been dubbed “Taraxagum” after taraxacum, the botanical name for dandelion.

“The use of dandelion rubber can shorten transport routes to our production sites around the world and enable the growing global demand for rubber to be met without sacrificing more precious areas of rainforest,” said Zmolek. “Both these factors will have a positive, sustainable effect on the world's carbon footprint and on bio-diversity.”

Does that mean the dandelion crop in your front yard is now worth cultivating? Unfortunately, no. The dandelion used by Continental is a specific variety known as the Russian dandelion, which produces more rubber than the common weed.

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